Social media has been a brilliant tool for activism because of its ability to reach global audiences within seconds of posting their content, thus providing a quick and vast reach of campaigns to individuals from all over the globe. Social media also provides those whom don’t have a voice within their own nation to hold a voice globally; and provides a space where traditional governing societal rules can be set aside (Lengel & Newsom 2012).
Social media activism is prominent within the Arabian countries where women are very restricted with free speech in a public context. Some are not provided an education while Saudi women are not even allowed to drive a car. Both of these issues have seen social media campaigns globally, but why? The simple answer is if women have access to these technologies they are able to freely voice their opinions and appeals on social media, thus campaigning to a global audience. This platform gives them a voice that their own nation denies them, which also leads to global pressure regarding these campaigns.
How are these messages perceived globally? Lengel & Newsom (2012) believe that these messages contain empowerment within their initial localized social media spaces but will lose power as they become translated into the global sphere. I believe Malala is a great example against this statement in regards to her online diary (blog) for the BBC. Her blog was fighting for the rights of young girls everywhere to receive an education, which resulted in Malala not only being wanted by the Taliban for the global recognition her content received (Synvitz 2012); but Malala is now globally recognised as an international icon for girls’ rights(Synvitz 2012). Clearly her media campaign was translated without losing power as shown through the thousands that have signed her online petition to stand with Malala and dedicated support through the use of the hashtag #IamMalala.
Wolfsfeld, Segey & Sheafer (2013), however, take a different stance and believe that social media revolutions are not revolutions within themselves but follow these campaigns. That the real revolution still occurs on the streets through protests and that the ‘key to protests are not technology but how technology resinated with various local contexts’ (Wolfsfeld,Segey & Sheafer 2013 p118).
It is clear through any context that technology plays a part within social media activism but depends on what the campaign is. It is clear with women social media perhaps provides a singular outlet where they can freely voice their opinions.
Gadi Wolfsfeld, Elad Segev and Tamir Sheafer 2013, “Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First.” International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 18, No.2, pp. 115-37.
Lengel, L and Newsom, V 2012, “Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the Framework of Digital Reflexivity to Analyze Gender and Online Activism.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, Vol. 13, No.4, pp. 31-45.
Synvitz, R 2012, ‘Malala Yousafzai, the Girl shot by the Taliban, Becomes a Global Icon’, The Atlantic,12th October, viewed 12th October 2013, <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/malala-yousafzai-the-girl-shot-by-the-taliban-becomes-a-global-icon/263527/>